Three-Year Drought Taking Toll On Oklahoma Farmers

Wednesday, May 7th 2014, 11:10 pm
By: Tess Maune

Oklahoma's three-year drought is threatening farmers and consumers alike. Oklahoma farmers are fighting Mother Nature to keep food on our tables.

"I'm doing the best I can right now to put enough water on them," said Don Drury.

Drury owns Bootstrap Farm in Yale, a certified organic farm that produces onions, sweet corn, all sorts of green veggies and carrots, just to name a few.

"I just like growing good food for good people," Drury said. "It's the way that I felt I could make a positive difference in the world."

Making that difference gets harder every day that passes without rain.

Drury uses a drip line irrigation system to keep his crops hydrated, but no matter how much water soaks into the soil, it never seems to be quite enough.

Bootstrap Farm Online

"It's dry. There's dust blowing, there's sand everywhere. My soil's blowing off into my neighbor's field. My neighbor's field is blowing off into my field," Drury said.

While well water is Drury's only current option, an irrigated system is not the best option, the farmer said.

"It is not nearly as good for the plant as good old-fashioned rain water," Drury said. "Rain water is soft, it carries no minerals with it and it actually brings nutrients down from the sky. Every lightning strike creates fertilizer and the rain brings it down and the plants perk up afterwards."

Drury is a first generation farmer with just six years under his belt; enough experience to know the need for rain is great, but not enough to have much to compare the drought to.

Local Harvest Farms

"When I look into the eyes of the older farmers and they say, ‘No really, this is bad, this is unusual,' I kind of go, ‘Oh, OK, this is bad.' It kind of confirms what I feel, what I'm dealing with on a day-to-day basis," Drury said.

Keeping his crops watered is costing Drury. He just shelled out $4,000 for new water pump and said if a good rain doesn't come soon, he could lose thousands in revenue.

"I'm looking at rain cloud back there and I'm hoping, there were red spots on the radar, I'm hoping," he said.

Though he's young, he's got the grit of a lifelong farmer and a hope that can outlast any drought.

"They're counting on me for their weekly food supply, so I take that really seriously," Drury said. "We get out here and we start finding ways to cope, how to adapt our irrigation methods, so that we can best deal with it because people have got to eat, and I'm on the hook to make sure that they have food."

There are a number of Farmer's Markets across the area.

Bootstrap Farm sells produce at the Cherry Street location, as well as to Folks Urban Market and Tallgrass Restaurant in Downtown.

He also gets a lot of business selling produce through Community Supported Agriculture, which is a prepaid subscription vegetable box program where customers get a box of seasonal produce each week.

At this point, spiking prices should not be a concern for Bootstrap Farm customers. Drury said if the supply dwindles he would have a hard time discounting produce, but said his prices are pretty stable.